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Feb 19, 2021 - 6:51:04 AM
48 posts since 2/18/2021

Hey everyone-

New member here, and newer to the tenor banjo, after 30+ years of guitar. (Banjo is way more fun to play, btw).

I have a Deering GT Artisan 19 fretter that I love. I read about how the bridge bows in the middle and now see it after a couple string changes.

I decided to spend a little $$ and buy a Katz Eye bridge. They’re pricey, but apparently worth every penny. My question is:
what can I do to avoid having to order a $38 bridge every few string changes?
Is it just unavoidable that the bridge will be ruined after a few months?
Is there any way to straighten them back out? If so, then maybe cycling between a couple different bridges is the answer?

Thanks in advance.
SIM

Feb 19, 2021 - 8:30:30 AM
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1219 posts since 8/10/2010

Deering smile bridge is good option for what you're facing. it has a slight curve in the feet to match the natural contour in your banjo head to keep the top of your bridge straight. always remember that wood gains a memory especially under the stress of constant string tension. but again give the smile bridges a go. I think this would help you significantly.

Feb 19, 2021 - 9:49:52 AM

48 posts since 2/18/2021

Thanks, B. I wrote to Deering about ordering a smile bridge for a tenor, and their reply was that they don’t make them because it didn’t make any significant difference in either tone or the bowing issue.

Huh??

So I’m trying the Katz Eye to see if the shape and load distribution makes a difference.

I’m wondering if anyone’s ever tried adding a small steel bar within a bridge to stop this issue, like in a groove between the feet and saddle. Might be worth a try.

Feb 19, 2021 - 9:59:50 AM
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Eric A

USA

1112 posts since 10/15/2019
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A bridge may "settle" in a bit into head, that's normal. The head has some give. But most bridges themselves will not develop a permanent sag very quickly. Certainly not within a few string changes.

Feb 19, 2021 - 10:29:14 AM
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15133 posts since 12/2/2005

Further on what Eric A said above: bear in mind what you're dealing with when you're dealing with a bridge/head interface. The head is a membrane; it's not a rigid object and it does bend when loads are placed on it. And the bridge is under load, transmitting same between the downward pressure created by the string tension. As such, a bridge is bound to flex somewhat.

A two-footed bridge is probably more susceptible to sagging than and three-footed one, due to the load distribution, but even so, a quality bridge should NOT flex sufficiently to require replacement after only a few string changes (that is, unless you're only changing your strings once every five or ten years). I would NOT monkey with adding some metal, per your previous response; bridges are actually highly mass-dependent in order to transmit ultimate sound from string to pot. Generally, the lighter the better.

Make sure your head is properly (and evenly) tensioned. Buy a quality bridge. And then don't worry about it.

Edited by - eagleisland on 02/19/2021 10:29:58

Feb 19, 2021 - 11:33:39 AM
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RB3

USA

949 posts since 4/12/2004

What we need is an adjustable bridge. I'm thinking that you could machine a long, very thin slot parallel to the top edge of the bridge. Then you would drill and tap a very small threaded hole through the middle leg of the bridge. Then you could use an appropriate size set screw, probably made of nylon in order to keep the mass down, to apply a load to the underside of the slot and that would straighten out the top edge of the bridge. Deering would then get a patent on the idea.

Feb 19, 2021 - 11:35:54 AM
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130 posts since 1/7/2019

Tim Purcell also does radiused bottom bridges. You might want to try checking with him. Don't know if he does tenor or not.

Feb 19, 2021 - 12:22:09 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4188 posts since 12/7/2006

The head is concave where the bridge presses down on it.

We want the bridge to be in full contact with the head.  If the bridge is an unbending piece of steel, then the center foot is not making good contact with the head, compared to the outer feet.

The simple and easy solution is to "go with the flow," so to speak -- make the center foot slightly longer than the outer;  or, equivalently, make the outer feed slightly shorter than the center.  It doesn't have to be a perfect circular radius.  Several bridge makers already do this.

If your bridge is flat, put 400 grit sandpaper on a flat surface, near the edge of a counter.  Rub each of the outer legs of the bridge on the sandpaper a little bit.  Check by putting the bridge on a perfectly flat surface and hold to the light.  If you see a bit of light under each outer leg, you're done.  5 minutes.   We're not landing Perseverance on Mars.  smiley   When I'm done I rub the outer corners of the bridge feet once or twice on the sandpaper, just to take any sharp edge off.

If you can put a thumbpick on the correct digit, you can do this and eliminate sagging.  Plus get better contact between bridge and head.

Feb 19, 2021 - 2:29:29 PM

48 posts since 2/18/2021

Thanks everyone.

The bridge that’s already showing some sag is the stock Deering Goodtime bridge. I know, lower end bridge for that model, so I’m upgrading. I’ll see if that helps.

Feb 19, 2021 - 4:32:20 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4188 posts since 12/7/2006

Wood is wood.  Maple is maple, no matter how much the labor costs.  smiley   Bridges will sag over time unless something is done.

The best thing to do is to get a new bridge from someone who already has shaped the outer feet.

Feb 19, 2021 - 4:34:51 PM
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Alex Z

USA

4188 posts since 12/7/2006

Wood is wood. Maple is maple, no matter how much the labor costs. Bridges will sag over time unless something is done.

The best thing to do is to get a new bridge from someone who already has shaped the outer feet.

Here is one of the specs on the "Banjo Bridges by Bart" site, byt Mr. Bart Veerman:  

  • center leg a smidgen longer to prevent sagging (standard)

Edited by - Alex Z on 02/19/2021 16:35:46

Feb 19, 2021 - 9:48:57 PM
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KCJones

USA

1442 posts since 8/30/2012

I'm sure sagging bridges is an issue over the long term but honestly I think you're overthinking things. This isn't an issue, you don't have to change your bridge constantly to avoid sagging. Seriously just even don't worry about it.

I feel like people are responding to the concept of bridge sagging, rather than your specific questions, so I'm copying them here again for emphasis.

what can I do to avoid having to order a $38 bridge every few string changes? Do nothing. You don't need to change your bridge regularly and bridge sagging is not an an issue. 


Is it just unavoidable that the bridge will be ruined after a few months? No. This is a non issue. Anyone who tells you that you need a new bridge after a few months is just someone trying to sell you a new bridge. 

Feb 20, 2021 - 2:56:35 AM
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Helix

USA

13770 posts since 8/30/2006

Welcome to the hangout.

If you need the head to be snappy/tighter then there is less sag. You don't need to rotate bridges. Some of us use different woods in bridges that help give different sounds for different rooms. A noisy bar is only one situation. A looser or tighter head will give different sound that you can dial in. Lots of wiggle room

Experienced guitar players make great banjo players.

Sorry about the response from the maker, not really what I had in mind, I take full responsibility.

Imagine being a banjo busker in Nollins and having to adjust your head everyday due to weather. They used Pennies and Ebony chips under the bridge to compensate for sag, you have to keep an eye on things. See the Ebony "shoes" in the picture.

When you get curious , confer with Bart Veerman or the other competent bridge builders here. You may wish to look at making some bridges of your own. Some of us on the hangout trade different woods not available to everyone.
Here's a bamboo bridge with vertical grain using Jatoba top and center. Grain direction can be horizontal, vertical and biased, bookmatched, etc. that's why there's lots of wiggle room. "It's always been done this way." that just doesn't work anymore.
Let us know as you go.


Feb 20, 2021 - 10:33:17 AM
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Bart Veerman

Canada

4893 posts since 1/5/2005
Online Now

When your bridge looks as saggy as the 4th pic down on this page:

https://banjobridge.com/br-06b.htm

you might consider doing something about it. It takes many, many years for a bridge to sag this much.

If it's sagged only a bit you might not like the cosmetics but, as long as there's no string buzzes, your fingers simply don't care smiley

Happy pickin' to you.

veggies: stuff food eats

Edited by - Bart Veerman on 02/20/2021 10:36:33

Feb 20, 2021 - 12:02:52 PM

48 posts since 2/18/2021

Thanks for all the responses!

I’ve ordered a better bridge than the stock Goodtime, just because.

But now there’s a new problem. Instead of starting a new thread, I’ll just ask it here.

I went to install my new suede strap cradle style. I loosened the hooks to get the strap under. When I went to tighten up the hooks, they kept popping off the tension hoop. I thought it was from the strap, so I took the strap out and tried; same thing. Two of the stock Goodtime hooks have flattened at the curve over the hoop and will no longer stay on.

Anyone have recommendations for replacement hooks? I’ve about had it with Deering. Too many issues for a brand new banjo.

Thanks.

Edited by - Hardwulf on 02/20/2021 12:04:25

Feb 20, 2021 - 12:47:56 PM
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PaulRF

Australia

3182 posts since 2/1/2012
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quote:
Originally posted by Sir Illsa Moustache

Thanks everyone.

The bridge that’s already showing some sag is the stock Deering Goodtime bridge. I know, lower end bridge for that model, so I’m upgrading. I’ll see if that helps.


A lot of times when you buy a new banjo the head may be loose from sitting around in a shop or storage for a while and that as people have mentioned will affect the bridge.  My Goodtime arrived quickly from the factory and the head setting and bridge were fine and I don't think there is nothing wrong with the Goodtime bride.   This bridge sag can happen to very expensive banjos as well.

Feb 20, 2021 - 1:02:44 PM
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521 posts since 1/28/2011

There are many companies selling "J" type hooks, but Deering hooks are as good as, or even better than any others. It is possible that your strap is too thick to be used on a banjo with shoe type brackets. If so, the hooks may not have been all the way over the tension hoop when you tried to tighten them. That could bend them. The only other thing that will straighten out the hook is extreme over tightening.  Deering banjos are top quality.  Probably not thier fault at all.

Edited by - latigo1 on 02/20/2021 13:06:12

Feb 20, 2021 - 1:19:36 PM

48 posts since 2/18/2021

Forget it, I think I figured it out,

Feb 20, 2021 - 1:30:07 PM
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PaulRF

Australia

3182 posts since 2/1/2012
Online Now

quote:
Originally posted by Sir Illsa Moustache

Forget it, I think I figured it out,


That's the great thing about banjos, you learn a lot of new stuff.  With the help of this forum and youtube videos I did all my own maintenance and adjustments apart from fret work. 

Paul

Feb 20, 2021 - 7:59:59 PM

48 posts since 2/18/2021

So it was in fact the j-hooks. Two of them had sort of bent flatter and wouldn’t hold the hoop.

I went to my local shop (The Fingerboard Extension) and bought some Gibson style, round hook replacements. Man, what a difference! They completely clamp over the hoop. I am now able to tighten the head like it’s supposed to be. It’s never sounded so good! Looks cooler too.

Feb 20, 2021 - 8:03:24 PM

48 posts since 2/18/2021

quote:
Originally posted by latigo1

There are many companies selling "J" type hooks, but Deering hooks are as good as, or even better than any others. It is possible that your strap is too thick to be used on a banjo with shoe type brackets. If so, the hooks may not have been all the way over the tension hoop when you tried to tighten them. That could bend them. The only other thing that will straighten out the hook is extreme over tightening.  Deering banjos are top quality.  Probably not thier fault at all.


The stock hooks on mine were way cheaper than the replacement flat or round hooks that my local shop has. I'm glad I replaced them. It's made a huge difference in tone now that there's a proper connection and tension on the head. But mine is a 'lower end' model. It's a Goodtime Artisan 19 fret tenor. I like it a lot though. Really great banjo for the money. 

Feb 21, 2021 - 8:19:28 PM
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Players Union Member

Helix

USA

13770 posts since 8/30/2006

Flat hooks suck
I spec round hooks only

Feb 22, 2021 - 7:40:37 PM

48 posts since 2/18/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Flat hooks suck
I spec round hooks only


Yes, and I can see why. I can't believe they cheaped out like that. I paid all of $2.25 each for some older, nickel plated high quality round hooks. They work way better. 

Feb 23, 2021 - 4:02:06 AM
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Helix

USA

13770 posts since 8/30/2006

All the factory banjos compete with various specs. I have seen flat hooks made from alloy, aluminum, steel and fewer from brass.
Flattening helps get the hooks up over the flesh hoop, some of which are grooved, the less expensive specs don't use the groove as you discovered.
Use a magnet if you are curious.

People aren't used to Oregon Weather on the hangout. Listen to an Oregon Weatherman on TV, they start with an apology: "now, now, now, there's going to be some wind and some raindrops, clearing in a few days, maybe."

Be encouraged, play the heck out of that rig.


 

Feb 23, 2021 - 6:52:06 AM
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KCJones

USA

1442 posts since 8/30/2012

quote:
Originally posted by Sir Illsa Moustache
quote:
Originally posted by Helix

Flat hooks suck
I spec round hooks only


Yes, and I can see why. I can't believe they cheaped out like that. 


If you knew more about Deering, you'd believe it. 10% product and 90% marketing. 

Feb 23, 2021 - 7:36:49 AM
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8370 posts since 8/28/2013

There's nothing wrong with flat hooks if they're made properly. I have two banjos with flat hooks (one is a Gibson). Both are now just a couple of years from being a century old, and neither has had a hook break. Many makers of very high quality banjos used flat hooks, including Paramounts, Epiphones, and even some Gibsons.

Modern merchandise is way different, though. I've seen flat hooks that didn't belong on a toy banjo, and I've seen round ones almost as bad, so it's not always a design problem. One has to search for high quality no matter what kind of hook is chosen.

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